Platini set to make FIFA decision
Michel Platini is preparing to deliver a critical barrage against FIFA president Sepp Blatter but it would be a surprise of major proportions if he decides to mount a direct challenge against his former mentor.
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Platini, the UEFA president, will appear at a news conference in Monaco on Thursday morning when he will formally announce his decision on whether to run against Blatter for the FIFA presidency.
The former France international will take final soundings from the presidents and general secretaries of UEFA's 56 member associations in the hours before the news conference but the signals all point to the 59-year-old deciding to not stand against the 78-year-old incumbent.
Platini is probably the only person who could win against Blatter in the election next May but it would be an uphill struggle - and if he stood it would mean not running for the UEFA presidency in March.
In terms of UEFA, Platini sees himself in the middle of a mission: Financial Fair Play is just up and running, the new Nations League is being launched, there is an unprecedented 13-country format for Euro 2020 and new centralised TV and marketing for UEFA countries. What is more, Euro 2016 is in his home country, France.
Going for the FIFA presidency would mean turning his back on all of that, and although there have been rumours in Italy that he is seriously considering standing, it seems hugely unlikely.
Platini was once a loyal supporter of Blatter's but believes the Swiss has reneged on his public promise not to stand for another term.
"In the future I won't support Blatter anymore. I've told him that. I think that FIFA needs a breath of fresh air," Platini said in June.
"In 2011 he asked for our (UEFA'S) support and he told us it was his last term."
Five of FIFA's six continental bodies have already announced their support for Blatter: only Europe has publicly opposed him. Platini's best chance would be to hope that Blatter would not relish a tiring election battle and decide not to stand himself.
UEFA's dilemma is how to oppose Blatter effectively given that he looks certain to retain his position whoever the challenger is. Michael van Praag, the president of the Dutch FA, has emerged as a possible candidate while Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, head of the European Clubs' Association, has also been mentioned though neither of those seem likely either.
What is clear is that Europe's patience with Blatter has come to an end after he back-tracked on his 2011 promise that this four-year term would be his last.